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Silencing the Sounded Self
John Cage and the American Experimental Tradition
Christopher Shultis

Available only as an ebook.

2013 • 210 pp. 5 illus. 5 1/2 x 9"
Composer/Musician / Literary Criticism - American / American Studies

$44.99 Ebook, 978-1-61168-508-4

Check your ebook retailer or local library for ebook availability.

“By carefully documenting Thoreau’s impact upon Cage’s music and thought, his book makes an important contribution to the growing field of Cage research.”—David W. Bernstein, American Music

Understanding John Cage in America’s experimental continuum

Christopher Shultis has observed an intriguing contrast between John Cage’s affinity for Thoreau and fellow composer Charles Ives’s connection with Emerson. Although both Thoreau and Emerson have been called transcendentalists, they held different views about the relationship between nature and humanity and about the artist’s role in creativity. Shultis explores the artist’s “sounded” or “silenced” selves—the self that takes control of the creative experience versus the one that seeks to coexist with it—and shows how recognizing this distinction allows a better understanding of Cage. He then extends the contrasts between Emerson and Thoreau to distinctions between objective and projective verse. Having placed Cage in this experimental tradition of music, poetry, and literature, Shultis offers provocative interpretations of Cage’s aesthetic views, especially as they concern the issue of non-intention, and addresses some of his most path-breaking music as well as several experimentally innovative written works.

Reviews / Endorsements

“[T]his is an intellectually stimulating, wide-ranging and eminently convincing interdisciplinary book. Christopher Shultis has something to say, and he says it; in doing so, he provides a much-needed ‘context by which John Cage can be placed in the disciplines of poetry and music.’”—David Nicholls, Music and Letters

“The significance of this study lies not only in its many revelations about the pervasive influence of the work of Henry David Thoreau on the music of John Cage, but also in what it reveals about the evolution of American music throughout the past century and beyond.” —Thomas DeLio, composer and author

“Since its first publication some fifteen years ago, Christopher Shultis’s Silencing the Sounding Self has been foundational in the intellectual history of American experimentalism. By focussing on John Cage's complex body of work through the lens of a philosophical consideration of his forefathers Emerson, Thoreau, and Ives, Shultis does something useful and important. This eloquent book continues to be a model for future scholars in musicology, literature, and American studies.”—Amy C. Beal, author of New Music, New Allies: American Experimental Music in West Germany from the Zero Hour to Reunification and Carla Bley

Composer and writer CHRISTOPHER SHULTIS is Distinguished Professor Emeritus at the University of New Mexico.

Thu, 14 Mar 2019 13:07:56 -0500